What if my boss asks me to take on another project?
You wouldn’t tell them an outright no! You could communicate in a very polite and factual way ‘Currently, I am working on x, y, z. If I take on this new project, it is going to compromise the quality of these deliverables. Where would you like me to focus first? What is the priority for you?’
In this way, you have laid out the facts about what you are currently dealing with so they are aware of your load. You have put the ball in their court – what is the priority for them? You are being responsible in terms of ensuring top quality and delivery. After all, it is your reputation on the line if you don’t deliver to a high standard.
Reframe your no
When someone asks you to do something, do you find yourself saying ‘No problem, I’ll get it to you tomorrow’. You put the phone down with a sense of dread. You know your plate is already full and you just agreed to add something else which will put you under even more pressure.
The reason you say yes so eagerly is because you want to be perceived as a super star and a go giver – we all do! We all want to be seen in this light but if you compromise quality for quantity, you will damage your reputation and quite frankly your entire nervous system. The amount of unnecessary pressure is boosting your adrenaline and cortisol levels and will ultimately start wreaking havoc on your health.
Next time someone requests something of you, say ‘Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you’. It gives you some breathing room to pause and actually check your priorities and capacity.
The trick to reframe your no is to manage expectations – ask them ‘What is the absolute latest you need this by because I am swamped until Tuesday morning. Would Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday work for you?
More often than not they will probably say yes. You added the extra pressure and load – first define the deadline date and work it around your priorities. That way you can stop working around the clock. If it is absolutely, screamingly urgent and it must be done tomorrow then so be it but let this be the worst-case scenario.
2. Manage your Meetings
“Sitting is the new smoking” – Unknown
Meetings have been the bane of your existence long before lockdown. How many times have you complained about sitting in meetings most of the day and only really start your ‘real work’ in the afternoon? Not much has changed. Over the last few weeks, clients and colleagues have expressed frustration that they are sitting all day in front of their computers and barely got a 15-minute break to eat.
Meetings are definitely necessary during this time to maintain team morale and strengthen relationships but here are some best practices that author Seth Godin suggests when it comes to meeting effectiveness:
- Understand that all problems are not the same. So why are your meetings? Does every issue deserve an hour? Why is there a default length?
- Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don’t, kick them out. (Or in this case mute them).
- If someone is more than two minutes later than the last person to the meeting, they have to pay a fine to their favourite charity. This is a big one for me. Even in the office days, there was often an attitude of ‘I can be 10 minutes late because everyone is always 10 minutes late’. This creates a culture of apathy and lack of respect for other people’s time. Starting 10 minutes late inevitably means you are running late for future meetings and a huge contributor to working around the clock.
- Everyone invited is someone who needs to be there and no key party is missing
- There’s a default step forward is someone doesn’t come
- The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short email summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting.
As a general rule of thumb, if these points are adhered to and implemented, then meetings should be more efficient, shorter, to the point and a key part of moving forward on the goal or task at hand. The end result is more time back in your day to work on your greatest contribution and some much-needed self-care. Try this you and you can stop working around the clock.
Do I really need to be there?
David Grady did a brilliant TED talk called ‘How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings’. He introduced a concept called MAS – Mindless Acceptance Syndrome which is the solution to an epidemic of bad, inefficient, overcrowded meetings. He says the solution is ‘NO MAS’. This is an excerpt from David’s talk:
“Here’s how ‘No MAS’ works. It’s very simple. First of all, the next time you get a meeting invitation that doesn’t have a lot of information in it at all, click the tentative button! It’s okay, you’re allowed, and that’s why it’s there. Its right next to the accept button. Or the maybe button, or whatever button is there for you not to accept immediately.
Then, get in touch with the person who asked you to the meeting. Tell them you’re very excited to support their work, ask them what the goal of the meeting is, and tell them you’re interested in learning how you can help them achieve their goal.
And if we do this often enough, and we do it respectfully, people might start to be a little bit more thoughtful about the way they put together meeting invitations. And you can make more thoughtful decisions about accepting it. People might actually start sending out agendas. Imagine! Or they might not have a conference call with 12 people to talk about a status when they could just do a quick email and get it done with. People just might start to change their behaviour because you changed yours.”
What if I am required to do meetings after 6pm when it is my family time and my personal down time?
“Stress management is boundary management” – Lori Milner
This depends on the nature of the meeting. If it is an EXCO meeting where it happens monthly and it is the best time for the group as a whole, then I would accept it and make plans in advance to prepare supper and manage the kids.
However, if it happens more frequently then I would use what I call ‘The Rule of 3’. If it happens once, notice it. If it happens again, become acutely aware this is becoming a pattern. If it happens a third time, then I would approach your boss and ask to discuss the meeting in question. ‘I’ve noticed you are scheduling our weekly status update for 6pm and this really is becoming a challenge for me. Can we look at another slot that would work better for both of us?’
I know it’s not an easy conversation but silence is often perceived as permission. If you aren’t sharing your views, they may have no idea how this is affecting you and will most likely accommodate your request.